COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 22, 2018) – In 2010, then 18-year-old Summer Ross became the youngest person ever to be named USA Volleyball’s Female Beach Player of the Year.

She won it for being the first athlete, male or female, to win both the FIVB U19 World Championship (with Jane Croson) and the FIVB U21 World Championship (with Tara Roenicke).

Eight years later, Ross, now 26, has earned the title again after a year that saw her medal at four FIVB beach events and four AVP events with two different partners.

Ross’s beach volleyball road has not always been smooth. She remembered not wanting to try out for volleyball at all.

“I remember crying when my mom made me tried out,” she said. “I begged her not to go. But I kept playing tournaments and it just sort of fell into my lap.”

Even the 2018 season had its ups and downs. In February, Ross won bronze at the FIVB five-star event in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with Brooke Sweat. But shortly after, Sara Hughes approached Ross about joining forces.

“The split with Brooke was so hard,” Ross said. “She’s an amazing player. But when Sara comes along, you can’t turn that down.”

Domestic success came quickly, as Ross and Hughes won AVP Tour events in June in New York and in July in Hermosa Beach. The took second place in Chicago and Waikiki.

It took Ross and Hughes longer to find the FIVB podium. After six FIVB events together, they won their first international medals as a team in August, taking third in Espinho, Portugal. They went on to win Moscow in August and take another third place in Yangzhou, China in October.

Ross said winning gold with Hughes at the four-star Moscow event was the highlight of her season, and maybe of her competitive career.

“It was everything I’ve ever wanted,” she said. “I’ve been playing USA Volleyball since I was 15 and it was an all-time high.”

Ross and Hughes are ranked 10th overall and second among U.S. teams on the FIVB World Tour heading into 2019, an important year. Teams hoping to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics need to compete in at least 12 FIVB events to qualify.

Right now, with two qualifying finishes, Hughes and Ross are fourth among U.S. women’s teams in the provisional Olympic rankings.

Having an offseason to train with Hughes has been valuable, Ross said.

“We are realizing that we are both unique and we complement each other,” Ross said.

Away from the beach, Ross got her own apartment for the first time in 2019 and is finding she enjoys the independence it offers.

“It’s nice to have my own space,” she said. “It’s in Redondo Beach, which was as cheap as I could find.”

Ross is taking the importance of the 2019 season in stride with help from Hughes and Coach Jose Loiola.

“I don’t feel pressure,” she said. “The way our coaches are training us, we’re practicing in tough situations. We feel prepared and ready for the moment.”

A more mature Summer Ross is looking forward to the future.

“We are preparing hard. Hopefully 2019 will be awesome.”